There might not have been a more controversial topic this spring than the fate of the Chicago Cubs’ Kris Bryant. Bryant, considered by many to be the top prospect in all of baseball, has torn it up this spring, hitting a ridiculous .425/.477/1.175 this spring, launching nine home runs in just 44 plate appearances. Bryant is not on the Cubs 40 man roster, and by sending him down to the minors for 12 days, the Cubs can add an extra year of club control of their hot-shot third baseman.
Despite cries from fans, players, and even Bryant’s agent Scott Boras, Cubs’ president of baseball operations Theo Epstein chose to send Bryant to the minors, along with several of the Cubs’ other top prospects. Apparently this did not sit well with the Cubs’ fanbase or owner Tom Ricketts, frustrated after a 107 year World Series drought and several losing seasons in recent years during a “rebuild” that began when Epstein arrived from the Boston Red Sox.
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“I don’t know what Theo was thinking. Kris has done everything possible to show he is a no-doubt Hall of Famer,” Ricketts said. “Do Hall of Famers have a place at AAA? Not a chance, not when you haven’t won in as long as we have.”
The Milwaukee Brewers’ have had their own issues at general manager lately, with Doug Melvin’s status up in the air after a disappointing finish to last season and a contract that expires after this year. Melvin made some curious moves in the early going this spring training, none more infuriating to owner Mark Attanasio than the option of Matt Clark to AAA. The Brewers also failed to address thin depth at starting pitching this offseason, instead signing two washed up relievers in perennial punching bag Neal Cotts and a guy who allegedly punches other people, Francisco Rodriguez.
It appears that within the last couple hours, the Cubs started listening to offers for Epstein, and when Attanasio heard this, things came together quickly. Teams have made trades for front office personnel in the past, but nothing like what the Brewers’ owner has reportedly given the Cubs for the rights to their now former president of baseball operation. Milwaukee will send Orlando Arcia, Kodi Medeiros, and Tyler Wagner to the Chicago, with Theo coming to Milwaukee along with a player to be name later. Doug Melvin, the Brewers’ GM since 2002, was promptly given his walking papers.
Attanasio, on the acquisition of Epstein: “I just felt like Doug had lost his touch. There’s so much math and sabermetrics in the games these days, but I’ve personally see Doug still calculating batting averages on his abacus. Can you calculate a pitcher’s FIP on that, Doug? I don’t think so. The time has come for a change, and I have no doubt that Theo will at least bring a calculator to the Brewers, if nothing else.”
Epstein was named the GM of the Red Sox in late 2002, becoming the youngest GM in history at the tender age of 28. Epstein presided over two World Series championships in Boston before coming to Chicago in 2011 and beginning to rebuild the franchise. He will leave the Cubs well stocked with the best farm system in baseball. The Cubs have yet to announce who will take over for Theo. Epstein has already reportedly agreed to a 7 year, $49 million dollar deal to take over baseball operations for Milwaukee. The move is expected to be announced tomorrow morning.
Under Epstein, it would seem that the Brewers’ are almost guaranteed to begin a rebuild process sometime soon, and it seems likely that veterans like Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Carlos Gomez, and even Ryan Braun will find themselves on the trading block before long. It’s likely that we’ll have to endure another 4-5 seasons of losing during this process, however 2020 could be the start of big things for the Milwaukee Brewers.